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How To Start A Neighborhood Watch Group

in Advice, Your New Home by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

You’ve probably read statistics lately that murder rates are up across the nation. You’ve probably been barraged with reports of murders across the Bay Area. There’s a grain of truth to the rise in the murder rate, but the figures have also been exaggerated. Regardless, people across the country are wondering how to keep themselves and their neighborhoods safe.

One old fashioned, but effective way, to keep your neighborhood safe is to start a neighborhood watch group. It is a commitment, but it costs nothing and it can yield safer neighborhoods. Here’s how to get started (from the National Crime Prevention Council):

  • Phase One: Getting Started — Meetings, Block Captains, and Maps
  • Form a small planning committee of neighbors to discuss needs, the level of interest, possible challenges, and the Watch concept.
  • Contact the local police or sheriffs’ department, or local crime prevention organization, to discuss Neighborhood Watch and local crime problems. Invite a law enforcement officer to attend your meeting.
  • Publicize your meeting at least one week in advance with door-to-door fliers and follow up with phone calls the day before.
  • Select a meeting place that is accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Hold an initial meeting to gauge neighbors’ interest; establish purpose of program; and begin to identify issues that need to be addressed. Stress that a Watch group is an association of neighbors who look out for each other’s families and property, alert the police to any suspicious activities or crime in progress, and work together to make their community a safer and better place to live.
    Phase Two: When the neighborhood decides to adopt the Watch idea Elect a chairperson.
  • Ask for block captain volunteers who are responsible for relaying information to members on their block, keeping up-to-date information on residents, and making special efforts to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people. Block captains also can serve as liaisons between the neighborhood and the police and communicate information about meetings and crime incidents to all residents.
  • Establish a regular means of communicating with Watch members—e.g., newsletter, telephone tree, e-mall, fax, etc.
  • Prepare a neighborhood map showing names, addresses, and phone numbers of participating households and distribute to members. Block captains keep this map up to date, contacting newcomers to the neighborhood and rechecking occasionally with ongoing participants.
  • With guidance from a law enforcement agency, the Watch trains its members in home security techniques, observation skills, and crime reporting. Residents also learn about the types of crime that affect the area.
  • If you are ready to post Neighborhood Watch signs, check with law enforcement to see if they have such eligibility requirements as number of houses that participate in the program. Law enforcement may also be able to provide your program with signs. If not, they can probably tell you where you can order them.
  • Organizers and block captains must emphasize that Watch groups are not vigilantes and do not assume the role of the police. They only ask neighbors to be alert, observant, and caring—and to report suspicious activity or crimes immediately to the police.

I would also add that neighborhood watch groups should take advantage of social media. Form a Facebook group or join a site like NextDoor, which you can limit to just your neighborhood.

Try to keep your group light and fun. Ask the police department to meet with the neighbors once a year. Plan barbecues and block parties or potlucks.

Remember, the more the merrier. Arguments will happen, but the block captain should try to keep everyone on the same page. Who knows, you might even make some friends.

Featured image via Wikipedia.

10 Reasons To Move To Portland

in Long-Distance moving, Posts by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Tired of the high cost of living or of the traffic, but love the West Coast vibe and mild seasons? If you’re anything like me, the answer to that question is a resounding, yes!

Now, I have no plans on leaving the area. Ninja Movers just moved us into a new, overpriced house and we’re kind of stuck loving it, at least for the time being, and to be fair, we really do love it.

Perhaps it’s a side-effect of spending more than two decades in and around the moving industry, but even though the Bay Area is our beloved home, we’re always on the lookout and Portland is at or near the top of every list.

We aren’t the only ones. Oregon, for the third year in a row, is the go-to destination for more and more people who are fleeing their current homes. Why is Oregon so appealing?


Cost of living

While a median home price of $335,000 might not sound that appealing to middle America, for those of us in the Bay Area, it’s nearly pocket change. In San Francisco, the median price is more than three times that.



We love our mild winters and our almost cold summers in the Bay Area, and in Portland, it’s similar. Its temperatures are mild and while they might get a lot of rain in the winter, they, like us, get very little in the summer.


Portland is cool

Whether you’re a 20-something hipster or a not 20-something former hipster (or hippie), there is something to offer everyone in Portland. Oh, and did I mention they love their beer? You can drink almost everywhere, including the zoo. There is a thriving art scene and frankly, a thriving scene of people doing whatever the heck they want.



Portland might not be the hub of fine dining, and really, who cares? Portland, like the Bay Area, is casual. The city is filled with food trucks, which are far more democratic anyway.



In the Bay Area, we pride ourselves in being green, but we are sorely lacking in safe places to bike. In Portland, bikes are put before cars. The environment loves it.


Food, part two

Yes, we’re also near the ocean, but the Bay Area has nothing on Portland for seafood.



San Francisco has one of the longest commute times in the country. In Portland, you’ll average about an hour a week less on the road.


People are nice

This can’t be quantified, but Portland is known for having very polite residents.


It’s a great place to raise a family

Portland consistently ranks among the best places to raise children. It’s safe, with lots to do and great air quality.


No sales tax

Need we say more?

Featured image via Flickr.

What To Do About A Bad Neighbor

in Moving Costs, Your New Home by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

If you live in the city, you likely avoid eye contact. If you live in the country, you might be able to avoid the bad neighbor altogether, but there are almost bound to be times when you will come face to face with your bad neighbor, and rather than reacting, perhaps it’s best to solve any problems beforehand.

Pick allies wisely – Bad neighbors are all in the eye of the beholder. You might hate the purple house with the sofas in the front yard, you might hate the loud music, you might hate the loud cars or the overgrown lawn, but there is someone in the neighborhood who loves all of that, and more importantly, there are likely people in your neighborhood who are friends with your bad neighbor. Tread lightly. You want to engage allies, but don’t ruin relationships while you’re at it. Feel your other neighbors out. Ask what they would like to see changed in the neighborhood. If someone mentions weird colored houses or loud noises, you might have an ally.

Confront them – Be careful. As in so many Hollywood movies, people can get a tad defensive when they are told they are doing life wrong, which is how they’ll take criticism of their paint choices. The best thing to do is to befriend them first. Cookies are cliche, but they are effective. Patience is your friend here. Don’t bring up touchy issues when you bring over the cookies. Wait a few weeks. Most people don’t want to be rude, but sometimes it takes someone pointing out their foibles.

The creepy neighbor – We all have one of these. You can check the sex offender registry. If nothing is there, but you still get a bad feeling, listen to your gut and stay away. Don’t hesitate to call the cops if warranted. No one wants to be “that person,” but things will only get worse if you don’t.

Call the landlord – If your neighbor is a renter, too much noise or messy yards are probably a violation of the lease.

For the neighbor who talks too much – I work from home and my neighbors seem to feel I have nothing better to do than talk to them. Sometimes, I have to not answer the door or the phone. Other times, I simply tell them I am on a deadline.

Regardless of your neighbors, remember you live in a neighborhood. Sometimes, the weird members are what gives your neighborhood character. Some neighborhoods, especially those with homeowner’s associations, are much less accommodating to those whose homes look less than pristine. They won’t help with difficult personalities, though.

Tips for moving overseas

in Uncategorized by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

If you are planning on moving overseas, it is important to consider different means of transport you could use. Traveling by a plane or a car to another country is not an issue when you have from 1 to 6 suitcases, but what If you are relocating your entire home? It might be cheaper to buy new furniture overseas and deliver it to your new home. It will be also easier and less hassle, because finding the right delivery service can take a lot of effort. If you have fragile and valuable belongings, for example, a crystal chandelier or a vase, which you would like to bring with you to your new place, you might want to consider removal companies on their own, rather than packing it all in boxes and taking them with you on a plane.

Removal services on international scale could be found in many countries, as most of them have offices everywhere in big cities or country’s capital. There is a big choice of moving companies, if you are starting from there, but make sure they can do international transfer.

When moving your belongings overseas think of the time it will take for them to arrive and if long time could damage or spoil them. If items are carried on the plane, there might be a problem of freezing. This could apply for transferring musical instruments made of wood. When those get too cold, the sound they make alters greatly. Be careful with other fragile items when you use simple means of international traveling. For that reason be sure to label all the necessary boxes with a “fragile content” notice. Make sure you insure all of your belongings with such flight delivery, so that in any case of the damaged caused by them or by an accident can cover your losses.

Tips for moving overseas

Another means of international transport may include man in van service, where a car can be assigned for your items to be delivered to another address in your new home overseas. Such delivery may take weeks, so think ahead, before ordering this service. Transferring belongings by car may be cheaper than by plane, but of course there are limitations and risks. Therefore, make sure you insure your items completely in case of any damage at all caused by the driver or by any other sort of accident on the road, where the driver is not to blame.

Removals of furniture and other possessions may require a lot of effort, when packing them in separate boxes. Make sure that all dismounted parts for each item of your furniture are packed together to avoid losing any screws or small pieces belonging together. Pack fragile items in bubble wrap and paper to provide the safest, damage free travel. Remember, that when using a plane for overseas deliveries the price you will be paying depends on the volume of the items you require to be delivered as well as on their weight. In order to avoid large costs per transfer try and pack your belongings so that they occupy least amount of space.
That could be achieved by packing some items together in one box, leaving no spare spaces in each of your boxes. This will make you use less moving boxes overall and it will ensure that the volume of your overall package is not large enough for a bigger cost.

Make sure that you only transfer items you need the most in your new place overseas. All of the spare furniture and small things could be bought in another country and that will make you save money, as the transfers can be costly. For more ideas: Wandsworth International Removal company.

Bay Area Named The Worst Rental Market

in Bay Area Real Estate, Real Estate by Ninja Movers Leave a comment
Featured image via Wikipedia.

Featured image via Wikipedia.

It probably doesn’t surprise most of us to live here, but if we rent, we are paying out the you know what for just rent. If we own, we’re paying even more. At least those are the findings of Forbes’ annual ranking of rental cities.

The worst city for rentals, according to Forbes, is San Francisco. On average, renters pay $2,800 a month and their rent increases almost 13 percent a year.

MSA: San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division

Average monthly rent, Q4 2014: $2,802

Year-over-year % change in apartment rent: 12.8%

Median houshold income, Q4 2014: $85,087

Avg. rent as a share of household income: 40% Apartment vacancy rate, Q4 2014: 3.6%

Average monthly mortage payment, Q4 2014: $5,851

Mortgage payment v. rent: $3,049 cheaper to rent

Right behind San Francisco on the “worst” list is Oakland.

MSA: Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division

Average monthly rent, Q4 2014: $1,815

Year-over-year % change in apartment rent: 10.5%

Median houshold income, Q4 2014: $76,493

Avg. rent as a share of household income: 28% Apartment vacancy rate, Q4 2014: 2.9%

Average monthly mortage payment, Q4 2014: $4,182

Mortgage payment v. rent: $2,367 cheaper to rent

Right behind Oakland is San Jose.

MSA: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area

Average monthly rent, Q4 2014: $2,291

Year-over-year % change in apartment rent: 11.3%

Median houshold income, Q4 2014: $93,902

Avg. rent as a share of household income: 29% Apartment vacancy rate, Q4 2014: 3.5%

Average monthly mortage payment, Q4 2014: $5,050

Mortgage payment v. rent: $2,759 cheaper to rent

Believe it or not, New York is behind even San Jose. Their average monthly rent is a bit higher than San Francisco, at about $3,300, but the annual increases are much lower.

METRO (Not an MSA): New York County (NY)

Average monthly rent, Q4 2014: $3,290

Year-over-year % change in apartment rent: 3.4%

Median houshold income, Q4 2014: $74,915

Avg. rent as a share of household income: 53% Apartment vacancy rate, Q4 2014: 2.3%

Average monthly mortage payment, Q4 2014: $7,917

Mortgage payment v. rent: $4,627 cheaper to rent

Rounding out the bottom cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, Northern New Jersey, Boston, Orange County, California and Palm Beach, Florida. I guess we should be happy that California has “only” six of the 10 worst rental markets.

Of course, there’s a reason our rental market is so tight – everyone wants to live here. We have the best weather, the best companies, but biggest variety of recreational activities and the best people.

What Can Be Expected With International Moving?

in Preparing for a move by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Container_Ship_MSC_Texas_(4423023837)Whether you’re leaving the country for a job, for retirement or just because, there will probably be at least some things you want to bring from home. Even if you know a lot about the moving process within the U.S., things change considerably when moving out of the country.

1. Don’t even think about packing for yourself – By law, movers have to pack every item being moved and they have to inventory them for customs.

2. You are charged in a completely different way – When moving internationally, you are charged by container. Shipping containers come in either 20 foot or 40 foot lengths. A 20 foot container will hold about the contents of a two bedroom apartment or a small two bedroom house. A family of four will typically need a 40 foot container.

Even if a container is partially empty, you will still be charged for the entire container. Talk to the moving company. If you are hesitating about taking some items, ask if those items will actually make a difference – they may not. Besides, the price difference between a 20 foot container and a 40 foot container is not usually double.

3. The process – You always, without exception, want an estimator come to your home to survey the move so there are no surprises on move day. On move day, movers will come to pack and load their truck. Occasionally they will load your shipment directly onto the container, but that is not typical.

The mover you will be dealing with is an agent. While it might be the same company that ships and delivers your goods (that’s rare), all three legs are under separate management. However, your initial contact should be your point person throughout.

Naturally, overseas shipping takes considerably more time. Not only are ships slower than planes, there is always a chance things can get held up in customs. Be prepared.

Your moving company contact will fill you in on all the necessary paperwork you will need to take care of. They will be an excellent ally in the moving process.

4. Pets – most countries no longer require pets to be quarantined, but ask. If you have a pet that’s more exotic than a dog or cat, be sure to ask. Make sure your pets’ shots are up to date and keep those papers with you at all times. If you have a small pet, you might be able to stow its crate under the seat in front of you or you might be able to purchase a seat for its crate.

Most planes are equipped with pet hauling capabilities, but there have been a lot of horror stories surrounding that method of transport, so if you have a bigger pet, there are companies that specialize in hauling pets. Check those companies out well. Get references.

How Can Movers Help Me With An Estate?

in Advice by Ninja Movers Leave a comment
Featured image courtesy of Ken Mayer at Flickr

Featured image courtesy of Ken Mayer at Flickr

If you’ve ever been put in the position as executor of an estate, you know that it can be a lot of work, even if the deceased made arrangements beforehand. Organizing an estate is emotional and a lot of time consuming hard work, but you can make even a disorganized estate go more smoothly if you follow some basic guidelines.

1. Find all paperwork – if the deceased was organized, paperwork will either be in files at home, in bank safety deposit boxes, at an attorney’s office or at an accountant’s office. If the deceased wasn’t so organized, you might have to sort through all belongings to find relevant paperwork.

2. Contact an attorney – in the best of circumstances, the deceased will already have an attorney. If not, find a local probate attorney. He or she will advise you on the best ways to proceed.

3. Work with the funeral home and arrange to receive death certificates. Once you do receive them, notify all creditors, banks, the Social Security administration, pension offices, Medicare, insurance companies, drivers license bureau, etc. of the death.

4. Sort through belongings – if a will doesn’t specify that belongings to go a specific person, any valuables should be sold as part of the estate and divided between heirs. Donate the rest to charity and use it as a tax deduction for the estate.

5. Store belongings – if the estate needs to go into probate (the attorney will tell you) it may take a while before you are able to disperse the belongings. If the home needs to be sold, it’s a good idea to get a storage unit.

6. Open a bank account – you’ll need it to pay the estate’s debts. You can also pay day to day expenses out of the bank account without having to wait for the estate to come out of probate.

7. Pay debts and taxes – a CPA can be your best friend in this case.

A good moving company can come in very handy when dealing with an estate. They can help you pack, organize, store and move the belongings, even if they have to go to several different states.

If you are planning your estate, you can prearrange with your favorite moving company to help once the time comes. Payment can generally be made through the estate’s bank account, but check with your attorney.




What Is Gentrification And What Does It Mean For You?

in Bay Area Real Estate by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Depending on your lot in life, gentrification is either great or it’s full of potential upheaval. To some, gentrification means betterment of a neighborhood. To others it means displacement. Regardless, there’s a whole lot of gentrification going on in the Bay Area and it’s reflected in housing prices.

If you are one of the folks who have owned your home for a while and your neighborhood is in the process of gentrification, you might be happy about it, that is, unless you like your neighbors and the feel of the neighborhood.

You may or may not like the trendier shopping and restaurants. You may like the fact that properties around you have a fresher, newer, more expensive look, but you probably will like the fact that your property values are going up.

If you are renting, look for increased rent and even eviction. Your landlord may want you out so he or she can make the changes necessary to bring in the big bucks. A gentrified neighborhood can raise rents as much as 40 percent. This San Francisco tenant saw her rent go up a whopping 400 percent.

If you are looking for a place to live, are there advantages beyond better shopping and restaurants? Is the crime rate lower? Studies have been done and the results are conflicting. Higher income people generally have more political clout and the ability to demand more police patrols but they also have more things worth stealing and the residents themselves may be less vigilant. A gentrified neighborhood may appear safe but it’s no guarantee against crime.

Gentrification is particularly hard on poor people and minorities, who find themselves having to move to the far reaches of the Bay Area or even outside the Bay Area to find affordable housing.

Chinese investors have long been blamed for much of the increasing property values in the Bay Area, but it might not be quite that simple. Foreign investors are creating construction related jobs in the pre-gentrified areas, but once properties are built, the people who worked on them will likely be out a home. San Francisco is trying to address the problems through solutions like affordable housing and loan programs, but we still have to wait and see.

What To Pack To Tide You Over Till The Movers Arrive

in Long-Distance moving, Preparing for a move by Ninja Movers Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

One of the most difficult parts of moving cross country is coordinating the timing. Unless you have a large home, it’s likely that your goods will share space with other shipments.

Don’t worry; movers take thorough inventories both loading and unloading, so things don’t get mixed up. What that does mean, though, is that because the moving truck has to make numerous stops and because semi trucks go slower than cars anyway, there will likely be a lag time between when you arrive at your new home and when the movers do. Yes, that will be an inconvenience, but one that will soon be forgotten and if you do it right, you can create some memories.

What you should pack will obviously depend on the amount of room you have in your car. If you are flying, you’ll obviously pack even less. If you are staying in a hotel room (generally recommended), you won’t need as many items as you would if you stay in your new home. Here are some packing ideas. Be sure to customize them to your situation.

1. Clothing – This one is obvious. Unless you have access to laundry, add a few days worth of clothing to the mover’s time estimate. It may not be the mover’s fault, but things do happen that delay shipments.

2. Toiletries – Again, this is obvious. If you are short on space, you can purchase soap, shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, etc. at your destination. I recommend bringing at least daytime makeup, however and a moisturizer. If you are moving to a dryer climate, bring lotion and lip balm.

3. Toys – There’s nothing worse than bored kids. Family games are a great way to pass the time, as is family reading time. Find the library in your new town. You probably won’t have a TV, but you will likely have smartphones and tablets, if the kids have them, are highly recommended. As far as actual toys, allow your kids their very favorite (if it’s small enough) but more than that can be too much.

4. Electronics – Smaller is better. Bring whatever you need for work and phones and tablets.

5. Pets – Bring your animals’ bowls and a couple of small toys for them. Don’t forget their leashes and collars. It’s also a good idea to travel with their veterinary records. I recommend crates for each of your pets along with their favorite beds.

6. Jewelry – Take all valuable jewelry with you, without exception.

7. Paperwork – Ditto on irreplaceable or difficult to replace paperwork. Bring everyone’s medical records, birth certificates, passports, car titles, etc.

8. Cleaning supplies – I don’t recommend moving your cleaning supplies unless you have a lot of room. They are generally too easy to replace. If you are staying in your new house, however, you might want to bring a vacuum.

9. Folding lawn furniture and inflatable beds – Again, for if you are staying in your new house.

10. Sleeping bags.

If you fear running out of room, the post office can be a great way to get some things to you faster.



How To Save Money When Moving Because Of Separation

in Advice, Moving Costs by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

family-law-329569_640Whether you’re separating from a spouse or from a roommate, you probably see costs adding up. Bills are suddenly doubling while the income isn’t. While Ninja Movers can’t really help with most of that, there are ways to help control the cost of the move, even if there is more than one.

It’s possible that if you are moving in the same general direction, your two moves could be treated as one. It takes a special sort of organization, but it could save on time.

If you are consolidating the moves, it’s critical that you are very well organized before hand. Label absolutely everything and color code it. Put colored sticky notes on furniture and mark boxes with matching colored labels or markers. It’s also a very good idea to inventory everything.

Instruct the movers that you will have two separate deliveries. They don’t need to have anymore information than that. Be assured, they don’t need the details of a messy divorce. While the movers can find which possessions need to be loaded first (the last and furthest stop), it will save you money to bring everything that will be unloaded last to the front. When they are done loading those items, they will load the items that will be unloaded first.

It’s best to arrange that one person pay the bill or that it be cut in half. The movers will not be able to itemize how much each move costs, although, and this is a big exception, if an estimator sees the move beforehand, he can give you a cost for each individual move. If you haven’t had an in-person estimate and if you feel that you aren’t in an amicable enough a situation to split the bill in half (or whatever prearranged split you discuss), it’s probably best to do two separate moves.

You also want to have separate moves if you are moving in different directions or if one person is moving out of state and the other is staying. Out of state moves are billed by weight while local moves are billed by the hour.

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